Cognitive Processes


This paper is about cognitive processes and how they affect an individual’s thinking and mental processing abilities. The paper will take into consideration adolescents, and analyze their various activities, including learning problems if any, and find explanations about why they do what they do. A conclusion will be reached.

Cognitive Processes

Jerry A Fodor says that the theory of meaning must be able to answer the question “What is it to have a concept,” and this would reduce a concept to an “epistemic capacity”. (Fodor A Jerry (1998)  What are cognitive processes, and why are they important to analyze and to understand human behaviors? Cognitive processes are in general divided into five to eight important processes that the human brain goes through when it is attempting to understand something, and they are: mental representation, memory, language, intelligence and learning.

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Mental representation refers to the important basic fact that one’s memory stores representations of the incidents that take place in one’s life, and these may be divided into two, analogous or mental imagery, and symbolic representations. One must keep in mind the fact that one’s mental imagery rarely, if ever, matches the real world in which one lives. One example is when one looks for the keys to one’s car.

Although the keys may be in the bottom drawer of the cabinet in the kitchen, one may just remember that the keys are in the kitchen, and proceed to find them. This type of mental imagery is used when one thinks back to what has happened. The second cognitive process, also known as memory, typically takes into consideration the fact that the environment stimulates one’s memory system, which may be either short term, long term or sensory.

Take for example a student trying to study while the TV is on. This person would have his attention divided between the TV and his books, and if the TV were to be switched off, then he would have more ‘attention’ to devote to his books, and his cognitive processes would determine what information would be used and what would not. The third cognitive process, language, explains how and why an individual understands what another person has written or expressed. For this purpose, a reader or listener uses the syntax and semantics of the sentences before him to comprehend its meaning, and typically, this process would take about 1 to 1.5 seconds for a sentence.

Intelligence, the fourth cognitive process, explains levels of intelligence in an average human being. One of the tests used for measuring one’s intelligence is the ‘Intelligence Quotient’ devised by Lewis Treman, but this test is not popular because of its failure to take one’s creativity into account. One may use convergent or divergent techniques for problem solving, and the typical IQ tests do not test one’s intelligence on divergent thinking skills. Learning, the fifth cognitive process, takes into account associative learning, in which one makes associations with one’s environment, and also cognitive learning, a more complicated form of learning in which one uses memory and language to learn and acquire knowledge. (Cognitive Processes n.d)

 In an adolescent, as in any age group right from infancy to old age, cognitive processes have been known to play a very important role. An adolescent, as everyone knows, is subject to a set of experiences an individual of his age group undergoes as part of his growing up process, and one such experience is that of peer pressure and peer group victimization.

One must remember that peer victimization has been linked with multiple adjustment problems, and these problems have not been studies in depth as yet. This means that if one were to examine social-cognitive processes, like hostile attributions, social perspective awareness, and interpersonal skills, and these were then taken as representations of depression, social withdrawal and anxiety in the child, it would be possible to use the cognitive processes mentioned above to understand the process better. (Wendy L. Hoglund, Bonnie J. Leadbeater (2007)

According to experts, several components of executive function for an adolescent continue to develop as he matures, and if the cognitive processes involved in the growth were to be examined, it would provide an insight into the adolescent’s behaviors, like for instance his response inhibition and his memory and his response planning methods.  (Asato R Miya, Sweeney A John, Luna Beatriz (2006)

Take for example the problem of adolescent sexual offenders. There is no doubt that this category of adolescents is the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed lot through the times, and these are the individuals who are severely ostracize and whom nobody wishes to include in any of the activities that the young engage in. it is only recently that concerted attempts are being made to analyze and study the cognitive processes of these adolescents, so that one may be able to understand where they are going wrong. This would perhaps bring about a real solution to the problem very soon in the future. (Seasock P John (2006)

Cognitive maturation in an adolescent will encompass a very wide range of abilities, which would in turn fall into the group under ‘executive functions of the human brain’. This would comprise of these functions: the change that occurs when a child transforms his thinking from concrete thinking to a more abstract form of thinking. This can be explained by the example of an adolescent who is able to draw his own logical conclusions from his scientific interests, with suitable and necessary help and encouragement from his peer group within a social setting. This would also provide him with new opportunities and new abilities for self regulation as well as for self observation.

One must note that although an adolescent acquires an increased awareness of his many talents, abilities and capabilities, it would take him a great many years to successfully establish a proper practical application for these abilities. This is the most important phase of the development of his cognitive processes, and as Jean Piaget stated, this is the time of life when a human being shifts from concrete thinking, or ‘concrete operational thinking’ to thinking abstractly and grasping abstract concepts in what is known as ‘formal operational thinking’.

An adolescent is subjected to stimuli that force him to make hypothetical responses to given stimuli, while at the same time providing generalizations to the stimuli, and it is when the adolescent applies his abstract thinking skills that he is able to use his cognitive process to face everyday life with self assurance and confidence. For example, this is the time of life when an adolescent tries to match his cognitive strengths to his future aspirations, and this type of cognitive adaptation and adjustments may be influenced by his peer group and pressure and the social relationships that he enjoys at this time. (Sadock J Benjamin, Sadock A Virginia (2007)

One of the most renowned and acknowledged cognitive-development models is that developed by Jean Piaget. The theorist has described the cognitive processes of children and adolescents in detail for psychologists and others who wish to study and analyze child and adolescent behaviors, so that they would provide experts with baselines of the behaviors that are expected from this particular age group of persons. The atypical development of an adolescent is taken into consideration, most especially in the areas of learning, socialization, and psychoeducational learning areas.

Piaget stresses on the fact that the cognitive development and status of the child would determine the perceptions that the child enjoys, and also the interpretations that he makes out of the events that take place around him, based on his own individual perceptions. This cognitive-developmental model concentrates on the time when the child has started to move from one stage to the next, in this case, from the ‘sensory-motor’ to the ‘preoperational’ to the ‘concrete’, when a child would be able to perform certain cognitive processes. Jean Piaget states that when a child starts to exhibit disturbed behavior, then in all probability, it may have been caused by the fact that his cognitive processes have not fallen into place, thereby failing to influence age appropriate behavior.

This sort of failure may take place when something has interfered with the child’s ability to develop his cognitive processes and thereby influence his capability to increase his perceptive levels and interpret himself and his environment through these perceptions. On the other hand, failure may also occur when the child makes a concerted effort to inhibit his cognitive processes for some reason of his own, or, he may also possess cognitive behaviors that are not appropriate to or expected by and nurtured by the people around him, like for instance parents and teachers.  It is important to note that the cognitive-development model of Jean Piaget has often been used to explain adolescent behavioral problems and disturbances like poor problem solving skills, depression, inappropriate behavior, and developmental problems.   (Knoff, M Howard (1986)

    Dr Lucy Henry, and Ms Morag MacLean conducted an experiment in which children with intellectual disabilities were studied, in which it was found that memory measures that tapped the central executive or the cognitive processes were important predictors of the arithmetical and linguistic abilities of the child. It proved that working memory resources are used by children and adolescents to carry out any type of cognitive tasks. (Henry, Dr Lucy and MacLean, Ms Morag 2003)

When one knows the individual’s tendency or his capacity to use any of the cognitive processes, then it would help release creative blocks within the individual, and also help him to communicate better. According to Carl Jung, the father of Cognitive Processes theory, certain individuals tended to orient themselves with the world around them, and these people would be known as ‘extraverted’. These people would be completely energized when they have an opportunity to interact with people in the outside world, while some others who prefer to orient themselves with the world within them would naturally prefer to be introverted in nature. These individuals would find that they enjoy solitary and reflective activities, rather than go outside and interact with people.

Jung also stated that these orientations were not the only reasons for the differences in people; the mental activities they were carrying out when they were in their ‘worlds’, whether internal or external would also reveal their cognitive processes, especially since every mental act that a person engaged in involved a cognitive process. (Berens V Linda, Nardi Dario (2004)

Let us take an interesting concept developed by Robert Glaser to find out why an ‘expert’ is an ‘expert’, and in what way cognitive processes and skills can be used to explain this. According to Glaser, upon analysis of people who are extremely competent in areas like mathematics, he found that for them, it was the patterns that they were able to recognize in the subject that made it easier for them to comprehend the subject, rather than the assumption that they simply had a better memory.

Therefore, when a person’s cognitive processes enable him to see a pattern in the problem he is given, then it would strengthen what he knows already, and this theory could be of great use in developing learning theories. (Glaser, Robert (2008) Amy Kind has conducted an in-depth research on Rosenberg’s theory of panexperimentialism and cognitive processes. Rosenberg has stated that where there is a lack of cognition, there would be a lack of evidence of experience, and therefore, this can be taken to mean that cognition would require experiences, independent of the people who are experiencing them.  (Kind, Amy (2006)

To conclude, one must state that cognitive processes would explain why a human being does what he does, and why he thinks the way he does. Although there have been several theorists of cognitive processes, it is a fact that there are several more as yet undiscovered theories and theorists, and these may be able to bring a better understanding of the cognitive processes of a human being to experts and to the average person.


  1. Kind, Amy (2006) “Panexperimentialism, cognition and the nature of experience” PSYCHE Retrieved on March 4, 2008 from
  2. Sadock J Benjamin, Sadock A Virginia (2007) “Kaplan and Sadocks Synopsis of Psychiatry”
  3. Wendy L. Hoglund, Bonnie J. Leadbeater (2007) “Managing Threat: Do Social-Cognitive Processes Mediate the Link Between Peer Victimization and Adjustment Problems in Early Adolescence?” Journal of Research on Adolescence Retrieved on March 4, 2008 from
  4. Knoff, M Howard (1986) “The assessment of child and adolescent personality” Google Book Search retrieved on March 4, 2008
  5. Fodor A Jerry (1998) “Where cognitive science went wrong” Oxford Cognitive Science Series Retrieved on March 4, 2008 from
  6. Seasock P John (2006) “Identification of adolescent sexual offendors, a debt model” Springer link Retrieved on March 4, 2008 from
  7. Berens V Linda, Nardi Dario (2004) “Cognitive Processes” 16 Retrieved on March 4, 2008 from
  8. Henry, Dr Lucy and MacLean, Ms Morag (2003) “Relationships between working memory, expressive vocabulary and arithmetical reasoning in children with and without intellectual disabilities” Cogprints Retrieved on March 4, 2008 from
  9. Asato R Miya, Sweeney A John, Luna Beatriz (2006) “Cognitive processes in the development of TOL processes” Science Direct Retrieved on March 4, 2008 from
  10. Glaser, Robert (2008) “Cognitive Processes” Discovering Psychology Retrieved on March 4, 2008 from


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Cognitive Processes. (2016, Sep 22). Retrieved from